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The South Africa Angle

Time for Terry to do the sensible thing

February 3, 2010

Any members of 'Team Terry' should look away now. Yes, where else to start but with the tawdry tabloid tale that is threatening to throw England's World Cup plans into disarray?

John Terry Wayne Bridge
GettyImagesWayne Bridge consoles John Terry in 2006.

As well as heaping negative publicity on the team and creating one hell of an unwanted headache for Fabio Capello, John Terry's alleged affair with the former partner of team-mate Wayne Bridge has rightly raised questions as to the former's suitability to lead his country. It must first be said that there will be no simple moralising here. No one, and especially no Premier League footballer, leads a whiter-than-white existence and private matters should not affect football decisions. But it is here that a distinction must be drawn with other sex scandals that have afflicted England's elite stars. By involving himself with the mother of Bridge's son, Terry's actions have directly impacted on the dressing-room dynamic and that is not something that can be so easily overlooked.

Capello is a man whose distate for the WAGS sideshow is well known and he will not take kindly to the spectre of relationship issues impacting on his sole chance to win the World Cup. Terry's fate will ultimately lie with the Italian of course, and those senior players who could bury him by privately expressing misgivings to the coaching staff or keep him in the role with a show of support, but surely it is right that Terry relinquishes the armband himself?

Reports suggest many colleagues remain behind Terry but it is hard to imagine that there are no members of 'Team Bridge' in the dressing room. What of Bridge's Eastlands team-mates, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Gareth Barry, who (out of tact) did not join City's t-shirt protest at the weekend? Will they yet wear their allegiance on their sleeves the next time the squad convene? It is Terry who has inflicted this awkward situation on the team and on the manager, and he who should pay for it.

Terry will not be axed from the setup altogether - and rightly so, he is a fine defender. Dressing-room divides are not a new phenomenon either. Andy Cole and Teddy Sheringham famously gave each other the silent treatment for years at Old Trafford. But the source of their falling out - an accusation that Cole did not track back in a game against Bolton in 1998 - was far less serious and neither was captain of Manchester United. As skipper, it is Terry's role to act as a link between squad and manager, making representations on behalf of each and every one of his team-mates. A bond of trust is crucial, and it is that that has been eroded. On this point of principle he has shown himself unfit to hold the trust of the squad of 23 men who will carry England's hopes on their shoulders in South Africa and should hand the responsibility, and the armband, to someone else.


Last week we were shocked to learn that Paraguay striker Salvador Cabanas had been shot in the head in a bar in Mexico City. Happily, his condition appears to be improving despite originally being given only a 20% chance of survival, and the Club America striker has not given up hope of returning in time for the World Cup finals. His father, Dionisio, told Ultima Hora: "When we were in the [hospital] room, he said, 'Dad, I will play in the World Cup'." Cabanas has already shown impressive character and strength following the shooting, and neurosurgeon Celso Fretes refuses to exclude the possibility that the striker will represent his country in South Africa. Fretes said: "He has to be included in the squad for the World Cup and they will give him the chance to recover in the next few months."


The South Africa Angle was saddened to read this week of the retirement of former Colombia goalkeeper Rene Higuita, who has played his final game at the ripe old age of 43. A colourful character to say the least, Higuita was jailed in 1993 for becoming embroiled in a kidknapping despite good intentions on his part, performed his famous 'Scorpion Kick' at Wembley in 1995 and much later tested positive for cocaine. But it was El Loco's antics in the 1990

World Cup finals that first brought his flamboyant streak to a wider audience. Facing Cameroon in the Second Round, Colombia were already 1-0 down in extra-time when a moment of madness from Higuita sealed their fate. With Roger Milla bearing down on him, the 'keeper unwisely attempted a drag-back some 40 yards from goal and an iconic World Cup moment was born.


GettyImagesA piece of magic from Guti changed his perception in Spain.

With one sumptuous, extravagant and completely unexpected swing of his left leg at the weekend, Guti not only succeeded in staking a claim for the finest assist in the history of football, the Real Madrid midfielder also transformed perceptions of him as a player who has been inexorably on the slide. Out-of-favour under Manuel Pellegrini at Real and without an international cap since 2005, suddenly the 33-year-old is being talked about as an outsider for Spain's World Cup squad. In response to Guti saying he was open to an international return, Vicente del Bosque even told Marca: "What he said is good. That means he's motivated. The door is open to his joining the squad. I look at a player's current form." It's amazing what one backheel can do.


Guti may have renewed hope of an unlikely trip to South Africa but his team-mate at Real Madrid, Christoph Metzelder, has resigned himself to the fact that he will not be in Joachim Low's Germany squad. He told kicker: "Realistically, I have got to accept that I am not going to be there. I have not had any contact with Jogi Low in almost a year. Even towards the end of last season when I played in some of the top games for my club, there was no contact. And the national team coach never really tried to come and see me live." Yeah, that's probably a bit of a giveaway to be honest.